BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
GOVERNOR Chibuike Amaechi has always ensured existence of elected local government system is in place since he came on board as governor.
He met a caretaker committee structure when he assumed office. He quickly set machinery in motion to conduct local council elections with the constitution of Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission, RSEIC, which has been conducting elections that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has always won.
Some observers of the politics of the state like Philip Azubuike believe that opposition parties did not show any convincing interest in the local government elections even though some later went to court challenging the outcome of the elections. This probably was why the ruling PDP won the entire chairmanship seat in the elections.
However, Ibiso Douglas alleged that the PDP did not create a level playing ground for opposition parties interested in the elections. He accused the PDP of deliberately manipulating the electoral process to favour its candidates in the race.
The dissolved electoral commission that was headed by Professor Nimi Briggs maintained that it was fair to all parties during the democratic exercise.
Unlike some of his peers across the country, Governor Amaechi has avoided the temptation to run a local government caretaker committee system since he assumed office but there was an instance his action according to critics violated the tenet of popular democracy.
The governor had in a statement issued by his Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitary on January 10, 2013 suspended 11 local government chairmen indefinitely.
“The Government of Rivers State has announced the indefinite suspension of 11 local Government Chairmen in the state with immediate effect. The affected councils are: Port Harcourt, Emuoha, Ahoada East, Ahoada West, Ogba Egbema Ndoni, Asaritoru, Akukutoru, Andoni, Okrika, Opobo/Nkoro and Ikwerre.
The deputies of the suspended chairmen were immediately sworn as acting chairmen.
Reacting to the development, the state chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, said the action of the governor amounted to usurpation of the function of the State House of Assembly and thus was unlawful, null and void.
Publicity secretary of the party, Mr. Jerry Needam in his statement said the governor violated sections 13 and 64 of the Local Government Law, which he swore to defend.
“It’s also laughable that the reason being given for such extreme action of the governor is lateness and or abstention to a governmental meeting, a proof that Governor Amaechi is more of a sole administrator than a democrat.”
The suspended Chairmen were later recalled. Meantime, Governor Amaechi took over payment of primary school teachers salaries from the local government.
According to him, it was part of the effort by his government to provide the state with quality education. He has built model primary schools and health centres in all the local governments in the state.
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